Meet Reetika: India's first-ever female U23 Wrestling World Champion
Hailing from Rohtak, Reetika clinched U23 World Wrestling Championships and National Games gold medal in the space of five days.
Campal, Goa: Many fans in the crowd who saw wrestling on Wednesday morning for the first time were on their feet as U23 world champion Reetika unleashed 'fitle' on Commonwealth medalist Divya Kakran to clinch the National Games gold medal in 76 kg women's wrestling here.
Fitle is a wrestling move in which the wrestler twirls the opponent by grabbing the opponent's legs to earn points.
Reetika's attack meant that she won the final bout in less than two minutes and clinched her second gold medal in the space of five days after winning the U-23 World Championships last week.
“I think I was third-time lucky, and I went with the belief that I have to win at the World Championships after two losses in Asian Games trials and senior World Championships trials," Reetika told The Bridge on the sidelines of the National Games 2023.
The 21-year-old from Rohtak, Reetika ran to embrace her mother soon she emerged victorious. Reetika's mother accompanied her to the National Games.
“I am ecstatic that my daughter has clinched two medals in the space of five days and as you can see, I am proud,” Reetika’s mother said, beaming with joy after the final.
Shrugging off Asian Games trials disappointment
2023 wasn't going great for Reetika as after a month of tentativeness due to the wrestlers' protest, she lost the Asian Games trials to Kiran Bishnoi in a close game with a score of 2-4.
"I was a little sad after the Asian Games trials. It was a very close bout and I felt I could have gone to the Asian Games. But my parents and coaches told me that something is waiting for me," said Reetika.
Reetika changed her weight category to 76kg before the Asian Games trials as 72kg is not an Olympic category and going into the U23 World Championships, she had no idea of opponents.
"My experience at U23 World Championships was good. As I changed the weight category, I had no idea about opponents. So, my whole focus was on winning the gold medal despite the former world junior champion being in front of me in the final," said Reetika.
Reetika produced a brilliant counter-offensive game in the final to shut USA's Kennedy Blades and defeated her 9-2 to become the first-ever Indian female wrestler to win the U23 World Championships.
However, Reetika didn't have the privilege to carry the Indian flag around since the Wrestling Federation of India was banned by the United World Wrestling earlier this year.
"I felt bad as everyone else was carrying their flags but I wasn't able to do so and our national anthem was not played either," said Reetika.
From Handball to Wrestling- Reetika's journey
Reetika used to play handball at the school level, and it was her father who made her switch to wrestling in 2015.
“She used to fight with her brother and she is quite powerful. She started wrestling in August 2015 after her father asked her to take up the sport,” her mother said.
"I switched from Handball to Wrestling as I wanted to take up an individual sport and my parents were supportive of it," said Reetika.
The motivation for Reetika to play National Games is to add another gold medal to her kitty and change the colour of the medal from bronze to gold this year.
"I have played these wrestlers before and I have lost to them also. I lost to Divya Didi (her opponent today) last year and finished with a bronze medal. I was in my rhythm and decided to win gold here also," quipped Reetika.
Along with Reetika, two more wrestlers from her academy in Rohtak, Neha Sharma and Nitika clinched silver and bronze medals respectively at the U23 World Championships.
"I hope that more girls will pick up wrestling in my city Rohtak after my medal. We have seen small girls coming and practicing, but these medals will push them more," Reetika signed off.
With the 2024 Paris Olympics in sight, Reetika will focus on maintaining her rhythm ahead of the next season.